Genealogical Anxiety

Professor Amia Srinivasan

Each of us finds himself not just already in the world, but already in a particular world: a particular moment in history, a particular culture, a particular family, a particular language. Our beliefs, values and concepts are radically shaped by these contingent facts about where we find ourselves in the space of possibility. What are we to make of this? Are revelations of the genealogical contingency of our beliefs, concepts and values cause for anxiety about their status?

I am currently at work on a monograph, The Contingent World: Genealogy, Epistemology, Politics, about what I call ‘genealogical anxiety’: the worry that revelations of contingency undermine the veracity or legitimacy of our beliefs, values and concepts.

In the book, I trace a history of genealogical anxiety from the pre-Socratic philosophers to contemporary debates about the evolution of morality, by way of early modernity, German historicism, Nietzsche, Freud, the Frankfurt School, Foucault and 20th century feminist theory. I seek to offer a new framework for thinking about the epistemic force of genealogy – do genealogical revelations ever cast doubt on our claims to truth? – as well as genealogy’s political force.

Apart from genealogy, I also work on topics in epistemology, political philosophy and feminism. My book of feminist theory, The Right to Sex, is forthcoming with Bloomsbury in 2021.